Ivory trumpet

Ivory trumpet
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan?]
Date Made:
?Before 1865
Elephant Tooth Ivory Animal
Carved , Hollowed , Perforated , Polished
L = 533, proximal end W = 20, Th = 16.4, finger-hole = 7; bell mouth exterior L = 82.2, W = 71.8, internal opening = 78 by 68; mouthpiece L = 146, W = 39, embouchure = 23 by 19 mm; L fingerhole to edge embouchure = 87 mm [RTS 3/12/2004].
849.9 g
Other Owners:
Collected in Sudan by John Petherick in 1858 and shipped back to England in 1859. Subsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers by 1868, perhaps via auction as Petherick is known to have sold some of his collection through Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London, on 27
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
Large side-blown trumpet carved from a single piece of yellowish coloured ivory (Pantone 7510C), hollowed out and then polished over the exterior surface. There are faint vertical tool marks on the interior walls, the upper parts of which are also blackened, suggesting that pyro techniques may have been used to shape the interior of this piece. The trumpet has a narrow proximal end with small flattened lip and bevelled sides sloping down to the body; this is oval in section, with a circular opening cut into it that can be used as a finger-hole to vary the note, cut slightly off-centre. The embouchure has been cut into the concave side of the body, some 87 mm from the proximal end. This has been embellished with a mouthpiece surround, carved as a thickened, angular, lozenge-shaped area that stands proud of the body surface. The front of this mouthpiece has been cut flat across the top surface, with the oval embouchure opening into the body of the trumpet and narrowing to its base. The top and bottom of this lozenge extend as elongated spurs which have been carved in the round. Similar spurs were once present on the underside as well, but it would seem that these have broken off at some time in the past, and been recut flat. That this was so is suggested by the fact that the ivory on these flat cut ends is much lighter than across the rest of the surface. The back of the mouthpiece has been cut to have two angled planes meeting at the apex, which runs as a sharp angle down its length; the same shape is repeated at right angles to this on either side.

Below the mouthpiece the body follows the natural curvature of the parent tusk, gradually expanding to the bell mouth which is thin walled with a sharp lip, and is markedly oval in section. There is a narrow incised line cut around the circumference just below this opening, with numerous shorter lines around it, and the area directly below the lip has been shaved with a series of broad concave strokes. It seems likely that this area was once covered with a skin or hide sheath as seen on other trumpets of this type, such as 1938.34.87. This object is complete, except for those lost spurs and a few chips around the lip of the bell mouth, and has a weight of 849.9 grams. It is 533 mm long. The proximal end measures 20 by 16.4 mm across, and has a finger-hole that is 7 mm wide; the bell mouth exterior measures 82.2 by 71.8 mm, with an internal diameter of 78 by 68 mm, while the raised mouthpiece is 146 mm long and 39 mm wide on its upper surface, with an embouchure diameter of 23 by 19 mm.

This trumpet was collected in the Southern Sudan by John Petherick in 1858’ ; an account of his travels in that year is given in his 1861 volume, Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa, when his expedition passed through Bongo, Shilluk, Nuer, Raik Dinka, Mundo and Zande territory. Petherick's collection was shipped back to England in 1859. It was subsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers, perhaps via auction as Petherick is known to have sold some of his collection through Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London, on 27th June 1862 (see the Catalogue of the very interesting collection of arms and implements of war, husbandry, and the chase, and articles of costume and domestic use, procured during several expeditions up the White Nile, Bahr-il-Gazal, and among the various tribes of the country, to the cannibal Neam Nam territory on the Equator, by John Petherick, Esq., H.M. Consul, Khartoum, Soudan ). This auction contained some 38 ‘hunting horns’, attributed variously to the Zande, Bongo, Murle, Jur, ‘Bonjac’ and Mundu; at least 25 of these were made of ivory. Pitt Rivers had certainly acquired this object by 1868, when it was published by J.G. Wood in his book, The Natural History of Man. He sent this object for display at the Bethnal Green Museum, probably in 1874. It was later displayed in the South Kensington Museum and transferred from there to become part of the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1884.

This object was published in a drawing by Wood on p. 486 with the caption 'ivory war trumpet. Central Africa'. Although it appears in the section on the Kytch (= Cic Dinka), it is not referred to in the surrounding text and may not belong with that particular cultural group. Indeed, his later description of Zande trumpets suggests that this may be a more likely attribution: "some of the officers, or leaders, have large war trumpets made of elephant's tusks... they are sounded from the side, like a flute" (J.G. Wood, 1868, The Natural History of Man Vol. I, p. 493).

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book V entry [p. 51] MUSIC TRUMPETS [insert] 1884.112 [end insert] [insert] 30 [end insert] 3000 - ditto [Side blast trumpet] ditto [of elephant tusk] larger [than 1884.112.29], with lozenge cut under in 2 raised points: finger stop at end. ibid [C. AFRICA] Petherick coll. (1358) (1283).
Additional Accession Book V Entry [p. 51a] - 1884.112.30. Number given HLR. L[ength] 53.5 cms (130.J.38).
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [p. 197] [insert] 1884.112.30 [end insert] 3000. ditto [Large elephant tusk side-blast trumpet] with undercut long points at mouth. C[entral] A[frica]. ( 1358 ) ( 1285 ) [insert] (1283) [end insert].
Black book entry [p. 48] - Musical Instruments (Wind). C[ase] 74. 1283 & 4. Ivory trumpets obtd by Petherick, small (3000). [insert] 1884.112.30 + 3 [end insert].
Delivery Catalogue I entry [p. 7] - Musical Instruments. Horn (Central Africa). 3000. 1358. 1283. 3 Cases 9 & 10.
Balfour Catalogue: Red numbers Musical Instruments - [p. 2] 130. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS, WIND. [p. 244] J - TRUMPETS. [p. 280] P.R. coll. 3000. 1283 [insert] black [end insert]. Side blast trumpet made from an elephants tusk, larger than the last [1884.112.29] & with the thickening and the mouth hole lozenge shaped & produced into two spurs on either side of the hole [sketch, with finger hole labelled]. Finger hole drilled through the small end. Central Africa. Obt[aine]d by Consul Petherick 1858. [insert] P.R.V.51 Coll. Misc. XI.197 [end insert].
Card Catalogue Entry - Side-blast trumpet made from elephant's trunk, with thickening at mouth hole lozenge shaped and produced into 2 spurs on either side of the hole. Finger hole drilled through small end. Illustrated.
Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - 3000 [rectangular paper label stuck to surface of object; RTS 3/12/2004].
Written on object -
CENTRAL AFRICA brought home by Consul Petherick 1858 [faded ink], 130.J.38 [red paint, = Balfour music reference], 1283 [faded ink = black book reference] IVORY WAR-TRUMPET [black ink] [RTS 3/12/2004].

Display History:
Displayed in the Bethnal Green and South Kensington Museums (V&A) [AP].

Publication History:
J.G. Wood, 1868, The Natural History of Man Vol. I, p. 486 (illustrated). [AP]

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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